Millennials Need CUs—They Just Haven’t Met You Yet

Engage these consumers how and where they like to do business.

January 18, 2011
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Attracting youth: Five steps

The Model Youth Program Guide from the Credit Union National Association outlines five keys to attracting and serving this age group:

1. Formalize your commitment. Youth programming that’s an afterthought will fail. Focus on millennials in your mission statement and strategic plan. Their needs and wants must influence the steps you take toward long-term growth.

Making youth an official priority—with visible support from the executive and board level—sends an important message to staff and members.

2. Woo them while they’re young. It’s easier and less expensive to win the hearts and lifelong loyalty of an 11-year-old than a 21-year-old. You’ll have little competition because few financial institutions care about serving them.

But if you wait 10 years, you’ll spend a fortune trying to outmuscle megabanks for their attention and their business.

3. Communicate. Listen to young members. Ask them frequently, as individuals and in focus groups, about their financial goals and habits.

Don’t worry about “speaking their language.” Although you want to be aware of their cultural preferences, you’re not trying to be their friends—you’re trying to become a trusted financial partner.

For that role, plain English, spoken respectfully, and a genuine interest in what they have to say are sufficient.

4. Provide pertinent financial services. Financial education delivered in a vacuum will generate the same reaction as algebra lessons that are too abstract: The student wonders, “When am I ever going to use this?”

Base your efforts on the financial services that young people need, want, and can use: saving and investment accounts, transaction services, and credit.

Young members are a low-risk and profitable group once they’ve been educated about their responsibilities.

5. Enlist their aid. Form a youth advisory panel to generate ideas for service design and marketing tactics. Open an in-school branch and give students training and the chance to teach their peers and families about saving, credit, and membership.

Hire interns to project your credit union’s youthful image. Reward them for successful recruitment efforts.

“Although youth development is critical for growth, most credit unions don’t have a comprehensive generational marketing plan,” says Bill McKenna, president of Marketing Partners, a credit union marketing firm.

Make attracting younger members a priority, develop a youth marketing strategy, and dedicate ample resources to support your strategy, he advises.

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